Piemonte is one of Italy’s most famous wine making regions. Its prestigious, elegant wines are well known all around the world. Therefore, diving into the deep end with hundreds of native Piedmont grapes, wine denominations, and crus can be a little bit daunting for a newcomer.
An Ancient History
The region’s history goes back to a time before the Ancient Romans Empire, when Celtic tribes populated the hills. Fortresses, castles, ruins and walls seem like a natural part of the landscape, and Piemonte’s wine heritage is as rich as its ancient history. Kings, nobles, politicians, and notable generals have all requested their favorite Piemontese wines to be imported, stored in private cellars, or served at important feasts: winemaking has been recorded in writing for centuries in Piedmont.
The region is placed at the base of the Alps in north-western Italy (“Piemonte,” or piedi monte, means “at the foot of the mountain”), borders France and Switzerland, and its southern part is defined by the Apennines mountains that divide the region from Liguria and from the Tirreno sea. The River Po, the longest Italian river, cuts through the region forming the Po Valley, which extends 400 miles to the east and empties into the Adriatic Sea. The Alps create a shelter effect over the region, so that Piemonte has a continental winter climate and less rainfall than Bordeaux, which is similar in latitude, and hot, sometimes muggy summers.
The variation of vineyard-covered hills in the south, steep foothills in the north, and the plains to the east produces a surprising variety of wines. With the Nebbiolo grape alone 14 different DOC or DOCG certified wines are produced, and the differences between one small town and the next one are astonishing.
The fog in autumn and winter is a typical part of the climate and territory. Early in the morning until the sun dries it away, a thick fog or nebbia hangs over the valleys and the vineyards, creating the perfect humid environment for grapes. In fact, “nebbiolo” can be translated as “little fog.”
Piemontese vineyards are characterized by their size: most wineries are small pieces of land owned by families that have lived there making wine for generations. It creates a beautiful landscape, especially in the Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato wine zones.